How to price artwork

Question: A student emailed asking how to price her beautiful artwork for an upcoming arts festival. It’s something a lot of people wonder, so I wanted to share my answer here in case you find it helpful. Comments welcome.

how to price your artwork

Answer: Congratulations, that’s great! 

There are 3 methods below for pricing your artwork. I suggest getting numbers from all 3 methods and comparing them.

  1. Comparison method for how to price artwork
    Look at other artists who sell in a similar way and who you feel are at a similar level of skill as yourself. Search for artists who will be at the same festival – or showed recently in the festival, artists who sell at local or regional galleries, any artists you are familiar with whose work you feel has a similar feel. Google your state’s artists who use the same medium or keywords you do. 

    Make a list of these artists, and go to their websites or galleries and find out how much they charge. Also click on their CV / show list / bio, and see if they have a huge list of fancy shows, or if it seems more like they’re starting out? Be aware that everyone you find prices for has been selling their work – or you wouldn’t be seeing their prices. So it’s OK to keep that in mind when pricing your work.  

    Include in your list their prices for a couple sizes. Important information: height, width, price, framed or not, do they sell through galleries or directly, artist name & url, whether they are emerging or mid-career. Some artists will make this easy and some won’t. If they make it difficult to find a price, just move on to other artists. 

    Once you feel like you have a good sampling of artists who seem like true comparables, look through your list and see what’s the lowest and highest price per square inch for the sizes you work in? What is the overall average? Do a lot of artists charge similar amounts, or is it all over the place?

    This is time consuming, and requires some soul searching – but it can also be very interesting and fun. Expect to spend a lot of hours doing this. Remember, this time is an investment in your art career, and you will be using this information for decades to come. 

    Most artists charge per square inch, but charge a little more per square inch when paintings are tiny and a little less if they’re huge. For instance, an artist might charge an average of $1 per square inch, but $2 per square inch for tiny work, and $.80 per square inch for large work. Or they might charge $10 per square inch on average, $12 / sqin for small work, and $9 / sqin for large work. 

    To get the square inches of your painting, you multiply height x width. 
  2. Checking in with your feelings method for pricing your artwork
    Once you find a few comparable artists, pay attention to your gut reaction. If you charged X amount for a painting of X size, would you feel great, or would you feel bad? What is your “I would be OK with this” price? Let me know how this goes for you. 
  3.  Tapping into your inner accountant method for pricing your artwork
    Add up the cost of making a painting, and use that as the price. To do that you can add the cost of your supplies for that painting, your time (you can use a time tracker ap to track your time painting, selling, shopping for supplies, packaging and transporting work, etc.) For your time, you’ll need to decide what your wage will be. Since you are self employed, you may want to double that, to include down time, benefits, and overhead costs – that depends on how good of a boss you are to yourself. 🙂

    Very few artists use this method to price each painting, but I think it’s a good sanity-check to compare this number to the numbers you came up with in #1 & #2, and to know what this number is – especially if you want your artwork to pay the bills.
how to price your artwork

Final notes on how to price your artwork for your first art festival

  • You will learn so much at the festival. 
  • It’s easier to increase your prices in the future than it is to decrease your prices. And decreasing your pricing gets substantially harder once you have collectors and / or galleries. It’s OK to start low.
  • But on the other hand, don’t price so low that you are paying people to buy your art. If you don’t feel confident enough to break even or make a profit yet, that’s OK. But it’s a sign that you’re not at the selling art phase of your career yet. Keep practicing painting until you feel more confident.
  • If possible, take things in a range of prices.  
  • Collect a list of collectors and possible collectors. That’s one of the biggest perks of a festival – being able to meet potential collectors and see how they respond to your work. Anyone who buys your work, ask if they’d like to exchange business cards or sign your guest book. (People have horrible handwriting; if you can get a business card it’s much easier.)

I hope you find this helpful! Comments welcome.

Best Wishes,
Jessie Rasche

Build confidence in your painting skills in The Painting Class.

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